Starting a clinic in a new city—with new referral sources and limited networks—can be very challenging. But with the right online marketing strategy, you can expedite the process. In fact, over the last three months, I’ve been able to grow my patient base by using old school word-of-mouth marketing and establishing an online presence in the local community. There are many ways to use the power of the Internet to market to patients and referring providers, and in this post, I’ll provide one tip for each area of digital marketing—blogging, social media, and email—that has produced results for me.
1. Write Blogs Patients Actually Want to Read
More and more, patients are using search engines like Google to find physical therapy services. Direct access has played a major role in this change, and patients are taking it upon themselves to do the research and find the right physical therapists for their needs. Almost all physical therapy websites have pages dedicated to highlighting their teams, their areas of specialization, what services they offer, and where to find them. So, how can you make your clinic stand out online? Writing engaging blog posts is an excellent first step toward standing out from the crowd.
Most physical therapists, including myself, aren’t Hemingway. For that reason, writing a blog post may seem like a daunting task. So, break it down to something simpler: If you had to write one blog post this month, what would it be about? How do you know your audience is looking for that type of information? To get a better look at your prospective patients’ online behavior, you can use Google Webmasters—a free Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site's presence in Google search results—in conjunction with Google Analytics, another free service that helps you monitor website activity. Google Webmaster allows you to see what keywords led your visitors to your website. In my case, I saw that I had a couple of users who were looking for ways to prevent skiing injuries. Based on this piece of data, I organized my blog calendar to prioritize posts about skiing and snowboarding-related topics above all else. I then shared my blog posts across all my social media channels—including Google+, Twitter, and Facebook—and, with help from Google Analytics, I’ve been able to track how many new web visitors I garnered as a result of the posts as well as which social media channels were the most effective in driving traffic to those posts. Making time for writing can be difficult—especially when you have a good volume of patient visits—but it’s an important activity that will help to attract new patients.
2. Ask Patients to Share Their Experiences
In addition to using search engines to look for physical therapy services, patients are consulting review sites like Yelp to find clinics and read reviews from current and former patients. In this post, I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of how Yelp works (for more information, read this post), but a general rule of thumb is having a healthy number of highly-rated reviews—especially compared to your competition—from Yelp users who have a strong history of reviewing on Yelp will increase your clinic’s ranking on this particularly influential directory.
We love hearing how we have positively impacted our patients’ lives, and—as simple as this may sound—asking our patients for reviews has been our best way of getting them. As the old saying goes, ask and you shall receive. We educate our patients on how testimonials play a huge role in:
- helping future patients decide where to seek medical care and
- determining where doctors refer their patients.
We ask our customers for feedback online via an automated survey and I follow-up with our patients a week later if I don’t hear back. In addition to asking customers for feedback online, we always ask for feedback after every visit. That way, we can make sure they are getting the service they want.
As a physical therapists, we love helping people get back to functioning and living pain free, but if we’re also passionate about enlisting our patients as advocates for building our practices—via testimonials, reviews, and social media participation—we can grow our practices and thus, help even more people.
3. Send Emails (But Hold the Spam)
Email has been an extremely helpful piece of my marketing strategy as it allows me to communicate with a lot of people instantaneously. There is some upfront leg-work involved in determining who a potential referring practice’s administrator or clinic manager is, but once I get that contact information, I send an email introducing myself and asking for a face-to-face meeting to drop off marketing material. I then use that one-on-one time to gain some insight on the potential referral source’s needs—whether it’s in-service for employee safety or ergonomics, educating a certain patient population on injury prevention, or creating a specialized return-to-sport program. Each one of these encounters represents an opportunity to grow my clinic network, and even if the person is not interested in my services or already has an established preferred physical therapy clinic, I will ask for recommendations on other providers or organizations with whom I can build relationships. And of course, I make sure every email I send is personal, sincere, clear, and specific to what I am requesting.
Regardless of how long your clinic has been around, the three tips above can help you use digital marketing to increase your patient base. If you have any questions, post them in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter: @therapydiaPDX.
About the Author
Jason Villareal, DPT, ATC, is the clinic director at Therapydia Portland. Prior to joining Therapydia, Jason ran two successful outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics in Coos Bay, Oregon, and Newport Beach, California.
Jason has been involved in the sports medicine and physical therapy field for the past 14 years. He has had the opportunity to work at the high school, collegiate, and professional level with athletes, while also helping patients in the pediatric, geriatric, inpatient, outpatient, transitional care, and home health settings. Jason has spoken at large physical therapy conferences regarding clinical efficiency and was most recently invited to speak at Grand Rounds for the physicians at Bay Area Hospital regarding running analysis and injury prevention.
Now, Jason is excited to contribute his knowledge and experience to the Portland community. He takes pride in achieving positive outcomes for each and every one of his patients.
Outside of the clinic, Jason stays active with his beautiful wife, Abbie, and little girl, Edie.